Ok, so this isn’t just going to be a rant, I’m also going to offer a few tips and examples about how you can improve your Linkedin profile shot, but before I get to that, I just need to get some of this off my chest!
There’s nothing worse for your personal or business image than a photo of you with a half drunk glass of wine in your hand, your best duck impression on your face, taken at arm's length with a mobile phone. Even taking the glass and duck face out of the equation doesn’t cut it. Selfies are not good for your professional image, especially when they seem to be so frequently taken in the dark.
But selfies aren’t the only source of my exasperation:
Photos of you on holiday? Not cool - you’re supposed to be a hard worker, not someone who’s on holiday all the time, not to mention the fact that no one wants to see your sweaty chest and sunburned drunk face.
Photo of you standing next to a Ferrari? Also no good, if you drive a Ferrari, you probably charge too much money.
Photo of you with your family? Lovely, but no good as your face is probably too small to recognise you out of the crowd.
Photo with your mate? No good, how do I know which one is you?
Over processed, blurry, that day you wore a silly hat and a pair of funny glasses for charity? All useless! I need to see what you look like! More importantly, you need me to take a positive impression of who you are!
I sometimes feel like it’s almost as if the point of the corporate headshot has been missed entirely. A good headshot reflects positively on you, your personal and your business brand.
Even on the most basic level of people being able to recognise you when you turn up to a meeting or an event is important. But beyond that, surely it’s not too far a stretch to imagine that a photo of you might say a lot more about you than just what you look like? What’s that old adage? “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
Ok so rant over… How to solve this problem?
Firstly, let me just say, I am not trying to homogenise Linkedin profile photos. There’s a place for plain background headshots, but they’re not the only option! We can tell a story with any headshot, even the white background shot can give an impression of who you are, it’s just important to tell the right story.
I always try to get a bit of personality into the headshots I take, but there should always come a sense of "professional but approachable". I’ll let you reflect on the personalities implicit in these photos.
Context can also be very powerful. As I have said above there are a lot of mistakes you can make, but there are also a lot of things you can do right.
This is Phil, he needed a plain background shot, but also felt he’d like to make a point that he’d recently added a new CNC machine to his tooling.
This is Joy. She sometimes needs an image to reflect on her as a professional person with strong ties to Worcester. She also sometimes wants to be able to give an impression of herself as a caring homely individual.
The angle of the camera to you.
In normal life, would you prefer people to "look up to you", or "look down on you"? Bare minimum I think most people would like to think that people see "eye to eye" with them. A photo taken from above might solve the problem of those extra chins that you don’t actually have, but it also means the viewer of the photo is looking down on you.
This next shot is actually a PR shot I took of a recently appointed member of a team who was in a high up position. Her eye line and stance to the viewer implies the power of her new position, yet her friendly smile retains that approachability.
Tips and tricks
So this is all well and good, but how can you achieve this for yourself?
As you might expect, my first tip is to hire a professional. There is more to photography than pointing the camera in roughly the right direction and pressing a button. We photographers know all the tricks, so many of which are way beyond the scope of a single blog post. That being said, there’s a lot you can gain from a few simple tips.
Work with someone else
Don’t take a photo at arm’s length with your phone - have someone else take it for you. Camera phones have wide angle lenses. Even if you manage to resist the temptation to look up at the camera, you are still too close to a wide angle lens, which will make your face look thin, but not in a good way.
If you work with someone else they can stand further away. With a mobile phone, you are better off taking a photo from slightly further away then cropping it. If you have a camera with a zoom, stand further away and zoom in a bit.
Use natural light
Daylight is the most flattering, it will also result in the comparatively basic camera in your mobile phone getting the most amount of light, meaning the resulting photo won’t be all horrible and grainy/noisy.
Angle of light
Don’t shoot a photo with the light behind your subject. Your camera is more stupid than you think. Take a photo with a lot of light behind your subject and it will likely knock it into silhouette. Equally, you don’t want the sun shining in your subject's eyes. Squinting is not a good look.
This is the rule of thirds - google it
. Note that the subject's right eye is near where those lines meet. Try it, it works.
Shoulders down, back straight, slight angle to the camera
Tense shoulders look odd in photos, get them to shake their arms out. A straight back is better than a slouch - just watch out, there is a difference between a straight back and a puffed out chest. There are lots of ways to get a subject to stand, but the default is to get them to face their body 30-45 degrees off angle then look back toward the camera.
Relax, smile and have fun!
No one likes having their photo taken. Or at least most people don’t. The answer to this is to make it fun. If you are the photographer, have a laugh with your subject, get them to relax. Pay them a compliment, even if it’s a silly one that will make them smile.
Ultimately, please do me a favour; get shot of that horrible profile you currently have! Take note of my tips, but if you still can’t get a decent shot… get in touch!